Sussex walk around Firle

Gardener’s Hill with Newhaven in the distance

Gardener’s Hill with Newhaven in the distance - Credit: Archant

This month Hazel Sillver recommends a circular walk that encompasses Firle Beacon and provides magnificent downland and coastal views

The chocolate box village of Firle is one of the best spots in the South Downs for a day out. Under the shadow of Firle Beacon hill, this little backwater has pretty cottages and gardens, a sizeable pub, a village shop, a carpenter’s shop, and it’s own brewery.

If you’re a soulful sort, the lovely 13th century church of St. Peter is always open. Its peaceful graveyard, where some members of the Bloomsbury Group are laid to rest, is well worth a visit. On the edge of the village is Firle Place estate (; BN8 6NS), where you can follow a guided tour of the house and its artworks, and admire the gardens.

Art lovers will also enjoy Charleston (; BN8 6LL), which can be found by rejoining the A27 and driving two miles east. Once the home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, of the Bloomsbury Group, its collection of paintings, its interior decoration, its walled gardens, and its colourful history are a delight.

Where to refuel

If you fancy taking a picnic up onto the Downs, you can buy sandwiches and supplies at Firle village shop, or ready made picnic bags at Charleston. Alternatively The Ram Inn pub in Firle (01273 858222;; BN8 6NS) serves delicious hearty pub fare, made with local ingredients including meat farmed in the village; there are options for vegetarians; and you can sup beer produced by the Firle brewery. There is also a nice tearoom at Charleston serving light lunches, and cream teas.


Location: Firle, near Lewes, East Sussex

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Distance: 5m (8km) – 2½ hours to walk.

Terrain: Grass and chalk paths; some uphill and downhill.

Where to park: In the car park at the top of Firle Bostal road. Follow the signs for Firle from the A27; then follow the sign to Firle Beacon.


1 On the South Downs Way, head north east out of the car park, through a gate, following the path across the corner of a field. The path leads alongside fencing, eventually going through an open gateway into another field, where it continues alongside fencing.

2 The path leads through a gate, past a tumulus or barrow on the right. Before long you will reach the large raised tumulus of Firle Beacon, on the left of the path. From here, there are views down to Charleston, the former home of the Bloomsbury Group.

3 After a small tumulus dotted with gorse bushes on the left, there are two gates on the right. Go through the second gate, and walk down slope diagonally across the field to a gate. Continue through the gate, maintaining direction upon the path through the crop field.

4 The path veers slightly right. Head through the gate and carry straight on down slope along a narrow path through a crop field.

5 Go through the gate into a field and maintain direction alongside fencing. The path eventually leads past a dew pond on the right.

6 Go through the metal gate and follow the path across the field towards Newhaven and the sea.

7 After the wooden gate, the path leads through scrub, and goes downhill.

8 At the bottom of the hill, head right, following the narrow path along this curving dip in the Downs. The path winds around, and gradually heads uphill through a field, alongside fencing.

9 The way divides. Take the right hand way, through the gate, walking through a field.

10 Go through the gate, maintaining direction through Blackcap Farm. Follow the road straight on, until you reach the car park.

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